For immediate release
The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a unique process of the United Nations (UN). This mechanism aims to improve the human rights situation in each of the 193 UN Member States. The UPR provides an opportunity for all States to declare what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situations in their countries and to overcome challenges to the enjoyment of human rights. The UPR also includes a sharing of best human rights practices around the globe.
It is a five-year cycle process comprise of three key stages: the review in Geneva of the human rights situation; the implementation by the state of the recommendations received and finally the assessment at the next review of the developments and implementation of the recommendations.
Three main documents are needed for the review: (1). A national report by the State, which comprehensively assess the human rights situation; (2). A compilation by the UN Office for Human Rights (OHCHR) of information collected by various UN mechanisms and agencies and (3). A compilation by OHCHR of information received by Human rights institutions and civil society organizations.
Gaps in addressing impunity despite progress of the TRRC
Much remains to be done to overcome impunity for crimes committed in The Gambia during the rule of President Yahya Jammeh, according to the Gambia Center for Victims of Human Rights Violations, (the Victims’ Center). While commending the work of the Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC) since January 2019, the Victims’ Center points to persisting challenges in addressing human rights violations under the former regime.
“The creation of the TRRC and the strong implementation of its mandate are key in understanding the crimes of the past. But other important measures are required to live-up to the NeverAgain slogan,” said Zainab Lowe of the Victims’ Center addressing the United Nations in Geneva. “It has become clear that in our country a small group of individuals was responsible for most of the atrocity crimes. We did not have interethnic conflicts in The Gambia and therefore reconciliation is much less needed than a strong justice system”.
The Victims’ Center was invited by to speak at the United Nations, along with other civil society organizations to present their views on the human rights situation and provide recommendations ahead of a Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva in November 2019, which will examine actions they have taken to improve the human rights in The Gambia.
“We expect the same willingness of the government as it showed towards the TRRC regarding other areas, such as the building the judicial system and reforming the security sector” said Abdou Aziz Barrow, son of Basirou Barrow.
The full report prepared by the Victims’ Center was shared with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in March 2019 to prepare for the Universal Periodic Review of The Gambia. The report highlights several areas of concern such as the persistent practice of excessive use of force by police, torture in detention and ongoing inhumane prison conditions. The Victims’ Center also expressed the need for improved freedom of association, opinion and expression, notably regarding youth organizations, human rights defenders and whistle blowers. Finally, the report addressed issues of corruption and misspending of public funds, in a context where victims still live in dire conditions.